Donetsk, Feb 10 – DAN. Thousands of people gathered in central Donetsk on Friday to pay last respects to the republic’s hero Colonel Mikhail Tolstykh, commander of Somali unit, best known by his call sign Givi.

A 300-meter queue runs along central Artyom Street to the Donetsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre where the civil funeral is taking place.

“We are laying him to rest as our son. He was a real man, a true warrior, our defender. Curse upon those behind this foul play. We’ll always remember our hero and never forgive those who murdered him,” Donetsk resident Lidia Azizova told DAN.

People of all ages including families with children came to pay last respects to Tolstykh. Many are carrying flowers, mostly carnations and roses. Some are crying. The line is moving, but people keep coming to the funeral.

“It hurts that they treat us like dirt; our people are decent and hard-working. I don’t want to live in Ukraine because the murder of civilians and such heros as Pavlov and Tolstykh can only incite hate,” city resident Lyudmila Shvydkaya told DAN.

“I knew Mikhail personally. He was a very pure and kind-hearted person; Ukrainian media won’t be able to smear him no matter how hard they try because we know the truth,” she said.

The civil funeral began at 10:00 a.m. Police blocked motor traffic in the centre of the city.

Tolstykh was killed in an explosion of a round fired with an infantry man-portable flame-thrower Shmel on 8 February. DPR announced a three-day mourning for the hero. The republic’s intelligence said Ukrainian secret services were behind the assassination and that Zoryan Shkiryak, an advisor to the Ukrainian interior minister, might be involved.

DPR prosecutors initiated criminal proceedings over an act of terror.

Mikhail Tolstykh was born in Ilovaisk in 1980. He served in Ukrainian armed forces. He joined DPR militia from the very beginning of Donbass war, participating in the battles for Slavyansk, Ilovaisk and Donetsk airport. A DPR Hero, Tolstykh was decorated with two St George Crosses and “For Slavyansk Defence” medal. He survived several assassination attempts and was wounded in battles several times. *jk